Stephen Colbert self-portrait fetches $26,000 at auction

NEW YORK Tue Mar 8, 2011 5:04pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Political satirist Stephen Colbert auctioned himself off for $26,000 to benefit childhood education on Tuesday.

The host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," the popular faux-news program that mocks self-important pundits, enthusiastically helped auction house Phillips de Pury & Company elicit bids for his "Portrait 5, Stephen(s)."

The portrait, which depicts Colbert saluting in front of several more images of himself, was defaced and otherwise enhanced by noteworthy artists Frank Stella, Andres Serrano and Shepard Fairey.

"We're doing this for children," Colbert reminded bidders as he commandeered the microphone from auctioneer Simon du Pury at Phillips' "Under the Influence" auction of contemporary art.

"If you're not raising your paddle it means you hate children," he scolded.

When bidding passed $20,000 and started to slow, Colbert began offering bonuses to the winning bidder, such as signing it.

"I will personally hang this portrait," he offered, then upped the ante with an invitation to appear on his program to receive the work.

Finally, in a fitting Fat Tuesday quip: "If you throw Mardi Gras beads, I'll show you my tits."

He also favorably compared his work, the fifth in series that has graced the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, with some of the sale's hundreds of other offerings.

"Damien Hirst is doing spin art now," he said, referring to a 2002 work by the British bad-boy artist known for sculptures containing dead cows or sharks preserved in formaldehyde.

The portrait, which carried no pre-sale estimate, was first shown on a December 8 episode of "The Colbert Report" during an interview with comedian Steve Martin, a noted art collector who was discussing his book "An Object of Beauty."

It was subsequently enhanced when Fairey, who created the iconic "Hope" posters for President Obama during the 2008 campaign, spray-painted "OBEY" on it.

Serrano, a provocative artist known for "Piss Christ" and other controversial works, used an indelible marker to draw a mustache and horns onto Colbert's scowling visage, while Stella glanced at it and declared it a "work of art."

Proceeds from the portrait's sale will benefit school arts projects through DonorsChoose.org, an online charity connecting donors to classrooms in need.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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